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Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Fifth section of What Are Post-Traumtic Stress Reactions?

I am publishing this on my personal page, on my author page and on my book page, Recovering from the War.
Here is the fifth section of of The Post-Traumatic Gazette #1, copyright Patience Mason 1995, 2005,
What are Post Truamatic Stress Reactions?
A healing perspective on reexperiencing is that this is an appropriate and effective message from the survivor’s inner self that he or she has been through something that is too much to deal with alone. We are human, a species that is interdependent, that forms families, bands, tribes, communities, and talks about stuff. Survivors were not meant to face this alone as if they were polar bears or some other solitary non-verbal species (although they may wish they were).
The brain is a “better-safe-than-sorry” system. It would rather you get a million false alarms than be surprised by danger once. Part of reexperiencing may be the brain going haywire, triggering full alerts in an attempt to keep you safe.
Reexperiencing is circumstantial evidence that a person has been through too much to handle alone. Reexperiencing can also be seen as appropriate and effective because it sends more people to get help than anything else. Finally, human beings are communicators. Turning the flashes of memory in the reptile brain into a narrative memory in the frontal lobes seems to stop most reexperiencing.
Although this is not part of the current diagnostic criteria, I believe the message from the inner self can come as a physical symptom. Somatization (the development of physical symptoms) has disappeared from studies about PTSD although it was the primary symptom in soldiers’ heart, hysteria, railway hysteria, shell shock and combat fatigue. People who will not listen to their own need for healing often experience a lot of physical symptoms. The body is trying to tell the story that can’t be told. In light of George Vaillant’s recent findings that 56% of WWII Harvard-educated combat vets without “diagnosable” PTSD were chronically ill or dead by age 65, this looks like a field ripe for study.
Many trauma survivors also appear to reenact their traumas, self-mutilating, getting themselves into the same type of trouble over and over, or doing to others what was done to them. These behaviors probably serve the same unconscious purpose of speaking the unspeakable. Although such behaviors have been observed, they are not enumerated in the diagnosis yet, and may never be. That doesn’t mean we can’t keep them in mind in our search for healing.
For a survivor to be diagnosed with PTSD, three numbing, two hypervigilant and one reexperiencing symptom have to last a month. If you have seventeen numbing symptoms, one hypervigilant and are not reexperiencing this month you won’t be diagnosed with PTSD, but traumatic events will be ruling your life.
Symptoms may come on soon after the trauma or fifty years later. That is the post in PTSD. It is normal for symptoms to come up again in the face of further trauma and in times of high stress. It is normal to be affected by trauma. 17 % of the teenagers in Detroit have diagnosible PTSD according to one study. Another study showed that 69% of the surviving spouses of police officers killed in the line of duty have diagnosible PTSD. 66% of Vietnam veterans exposed to high war zone stress have had diagnosible PTSD at some time since the war and 33% still do today. Several studies of WWII combat/pow veterans in the hospital for other problems have shown that at least 50% of them have had PTSD and about 30 % still do.
Israeli studies show that people who have been traumatized react faster and more deeply to each subsequent trauma.
In addition, the effects of a traumatic stressor are worse when the cause is human neglect, betrayal, or human cruelty.
There are other post traumatic reactions which have not been studied including workaholism which might be invisible to workaholic doctors. Family system effects are just beginning to be studied, but many survivors manage to look good at great expense to their families. A child playing the role of family hero is not seen as a sign of family dysfunction, but as proof of good psychosocial adjustment. As a community of survivors, family, friends, and therapists, we need to look at our experiences, examining everything to see how it relates to trauma because what happens to people affects them.

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